by Kate Messner (Author) Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)
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Gr 1-3--Beneath every garden lies a secret world down in the dirt. In this enchanting follow-up to Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle, 2011), Messner explores that underground realm. This yearlong adventure begins early in spring, with a young girl learning from her grandmother that the soil is still too cold and wet to begin planting. The pair make plans while earthworms and insects work in the dirt. As the year goes by, they tend to the garden, weeding, watering, and keeping away pests, and later harvesting vegetables. The illustrations are marked by rich brown earth tones, highlighted by brighter colors here and there (a red wheelbarrow, yellow boots) as the seasons reveal themselves slowly. Spreads detail the often unseen life all around the garden, such as a praying mantis that eats mosquitoes, pill bugs that chew through leaves, honeybees that pollinate flowers, and a garter snake that hunts grasshoppers. Neal effectively uses light and dark to show the contrast between night and day; an image of foraging rabbits by day is eventually replaced by a nighttime scene of skunks "[working] the night shift." Each page invites readers to linger over the quiet text, which gently moves the story along. Back matter includes an author's note and a complete listing of the many creatures mentioned throughout. VERDICT A beautiful, informative addition to any collection.--Frances E. Millhouser, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VACopyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.